New Delhi: The Indian Bar Association gave legal notice to the chief scientist at the World Health Organisation, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, for “influencing the public against” and “running a disinformation campaign against Ivermectin” – a popular anti-parasitic drug prescribed to Covid-19 patients.
The IBA, an association of private lawyers headquartered in Mumbai, reacted to public statements, including those on Twitter, by Swaminathan that said WHO did not recommend the use of drugs for Covid-19, “except in clinical trials”. He also said there was “no evidence” that the drug helped stop the disease from progressing.
The WHO has consistently said there is not enough evidence to prove that Ivermectin helps relieve the Covid-19 disease.
The IBA’s 51-page notice, sent on May 25, called Swaminathan’s remarks “grossly unscrupulous, misleading and issued with ulterior motives and a deliberate intent to undermine Ivermectin’s effectiveness in treating Covid-19 patients as well as its use as prophylaxis and to prevent people from using this drug.” by creating doubts in people’s minds about the safety of Ivermectin”.
The Association has called for actions under sections 302 (punishment for murder), 304(II) (guilty murder is not the same as murder), 88 (acts not intended to cause death), 120(B) (a party to a criminal conspiracy) and 34 (actions committed by several people with a common purpose) “and other provisions of the Indian Penal Code and under the Disaster Management Act, 2005”.
“Legal notice is only the first step. We will bring it forward. There are forces at work to suppress Ivermectin for the reasons stated in the notice,” said Dipali Ojha, author of the notice and head of the IBA’s legal cell.
What is the notification based on?
The IBA, in its legal notice, claims the drug, “has brought back several critically ill COVID-19 patients from the door of death” citing three case studies of “miraculous recovery of critically ill COVID-19 patients,” from the US. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recommends the use of the drug in mild to moderate patients.
The notice accuses Swaminathan of deliberately refusing the drug, “in desperate hope to prevent Indians from discovering the effectiveness of Ivermectin and that they continue to fall ill and make it available as a large market,” for new drugs that may be granted an Emergency Use Permit (UAE).
“You (Swaminathan) have abused your position as Chief Scientist at WHO to influence people including doctors and medical scientists, by trying to impose on them the fact that WHO does not support the use of Ivermectin either as prophylaxis or in the treatment of disease. COVID-19,” the notice reads. “It seems that you deliberately chose the death of people to achieve your hidden goal.”
However, the IBA notice is based on contested scientific research.
The IBA uses research findings from two organizations – the US-based ‘Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance’ and the ‘UK Ivermectin Recommendation Development Panel’ – to support its claims about the benefits of Ivermectin.
Both organizations claim Ivermectin is effective in fighting Covid-19 both as a prophylactic and as a treatment. However, the peer-reviewed journal, Frontiers in Pharmacology, has rejected research by the US-based Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance for “unsubstantiated claims”. The American Journal of Therapeutics later published the same research.
The use of Ivermectin has always been highly contested, but even drugmakers have acknowledged that it has no potential therapeutic effect on Covid-19, saying it “has no meaningful evidence for clinical activity or clinical efficacy in patients with Covid-19 disease”.
The Indian government is also reviewing the use of Ivermectin in its treatment protocol. The latest Covid-19 treatment protocol released by the Directorate General of Health Services (DJCK) on May 27 does not include Ivermectin, along with several other antibiotics, in its guidelines.
When asked, Ojha said, “The makers of Ivermectin said what they did was because of a conflict of interest. They made an antiviral drug for the treatment of Covid-19, which could give them a patent. The DGHS has exceeded its authority in issuing these new guidelines. We are working on something urgent in this regard.”
Read also: India should increase surveillance, monitor variant to counter 3rd wave: Soumya Swaminathan from WHO
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